TELETOON breeds new shows

First in an occasional series on the production companies emerging to take advantage of the new specialty channel opportunities.

As teletoon, the country’s first animation station, g’es on the air in September with round-the-clock multigenerational programming, it has created another outlet for Canada’s celebrated animation minds as well as an opportunity for new partnerships among companies from different segments of the industry.

The broadcaster has pledged to spend $42 million on new Canadian productions over the course of its seven-year licence and in its first season has backed several Canadian series to fill out its brand-new schedule, which is divided into preschool, kids, family and adult blocks.

Among the producers of new Canadian titles are the usual as well as some unusual suspects and combinations thereof.

Splat!, a new magazine-style live-action show covering the world of animation is a coproduction of Torch Television, based in Toronto with offices in Burbank, California, and Red Giant, a new Toronto production player.

Red Giant is the creation of Chris Wallace, head of high-end commercial effects shop TOPIX Computer Graphics and Animation. Wallace and a partner began work on the series about four years ago, creating the new development entity as a result. Ultimately, Red Giant will be acquired by and become a part of topix.

The two companies have already produced 13 episodes of Splat! which were distributed by Fox-Lorber & Associates and which aired around the world on Discovery International.

teletoon will air the first season of the show in its primetime schedule beginning in September, and in the new year will broadcast the second season, now in production until December.

The show, produced in Toronto and l.a., covers the entire animation spectrum from traditional to 3D, with second-season samples including segments on the National Film Board, Mainframe Entertainment’s Beasties, Vancouver animation company International Rocketship and vintage animation.

Wallace says Red Giant has three other properties in various stages of development, including a series on science and space, one about exotic Canadian destinations, in development with Vancouver-based Eyes Production, and a show at the script stage about the oddities of news coverage. Wallace is also putting together the beginnings of a live-action sitcom.

teletoon vp of programming Kevin Wright says the mandate of getting on the air and filling up a brand new schedule put the emphasis on series; series which could be turned around in relatively short order and which represented a mix of new and recognizable titles.

‘We didn’t have the luxury of a one- or two-year development period, we had to see material that could go into production right away,’ says Wright. ‘In the next round we’ll be able to look at longer lead times on titles, if necessary.’

In addition to Splat!, new Canadian titles include Lacewood’s Kassai and Luk, based on the writings of Senegalese writer Senghor, and Red Beard, a seafaring adventure series coproduced by Montreal-based Mediatoon, a division of French company Editions Dupuis, with France’s Carrere Television and Quebec-based Medver International and produced in France and Canada.

Mediatoon is a packager which facilitates international coproductions in animation and live action, and for the 26-episode Red Beard project, provided financing for the Canadian producer.

Medver is also coproducing the half-hour animated series Papyrus with Editions Dupuis and Nanook with France’s Elma Animation and deals are in the works to include both series in the teletoon schedule, likely next season.

Wright says in its second year, in addition to series the broadcaster will look at acquiring specials for all age groups as well as interstitial material and shorts. The station will create opportunities for animation companies of all sizes, says Wright, and the opportunity for companies to form partnerships which exploit the particular skills of each.

‘There’s been a renaissance of animation opportunities, both with teletoon coming on as well as in general around the world as the marketability and shelf life of animation is becoming recognized,’ says Wright.

‘There are a number of different companies like Alliance, Atlantis and Paragon that recognize the value of animation and are exploring partnering with medium-sized animation companies in Canada that have hands-on service experience but maybe not the international connections or the packaging experience that the larger production companies have.’

One such partnership has created the Alliance series Captain Star, set to begin airing on teletoon in September at 8 p.m. The series is based on characters created by Steven Appleby, a Canadian-born artist now based in the u.k., and is a coproduction of Alliance, u.k.-based Filmworks and htv’s Harvest Entertainment, Germany’s zdf, Nickelodeon u.k. and Canal Plus Spain.

Animation for the series is provided by Ottawa-based Funbag Animation as well as u.k.-based Cosgrove Hall.

Captain Star follows the adventures of the titular space hero character, voiced by Withnail & I’s Richard E. Grant, and the crew of his Boiling Hell vessel on the Nameless Planet.

Jeff Rayman, president of Alliance Equicap and Multimedia, says the show is based on a subtle, smart humor and has potential appeal for kids and adults. ‘It will cut across a lot of age groups if people give it a chance,’ says Rayman.

The show is Alliance’s first animation project outside of the Mainframe Entertainment framework and Rayman says the company is aiming to become a production partner in the field of animation.

‘Alliance’s position as an animation company is to work with producers as a strong partner,’ says Rayman. ‘We don’t want to become a studio or facility where we’re developing and creating and drawing all our own projects. We want to share in the process and work with producers who have ideas and need us to kick start or finalize something.’

Rayman says Alliance has a number of animation properties in development.

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